In a nutshell, the Libertarian Philosophy is simply: “Live and Let Live”
It is exactly the philosophy our founding fathers espoused in the Declaration of Independence and implemented in the US Constitution (including amendments, of course).
If you understand and like these two documents, you pretty much are a Libertarian!
“Live and Let Live” More Fully Defined
The freedom each individual enjoys should be maximized; that is, an individual is free to do anything s/he pleases, as long as it does not materially infringe upon the equal rights of other individuals.
Along with great freedom comes great responsibility: if an individual does infringe upon the rights of others, s/he will be held personally accountable.
Social and Economic Liberties
Individuals are free to engage in whatever social behaviors they wish without interference.
On the “flip side,” no one may impose his or her preferred behaviors (religion, morals, opinions, etc.) upon someone else.
Economic freedom means the right to own private property, the right to keep the fruits of one’s labor and the right to freely trade goods and services (which is the free market system).
An Important Distinction
Just because you agree that individuals are free to engage in any behavior that does not infringe upon others does NOT mean that you approve of all of them.
There are many behaviors that you may even find objectionable and would not dream of doing yourself, but they must be allowed as long as they do not materially affect other people in any adverse way.
Separation Of Church And State
Libertarians insist upon strict separation of church and state (as built into the Constitution by our founding fathers).
"It does me no injury for my neighbor to say that there are 20 gods or no God" – Thomas Jefferson
Libertarians occasionally are accused of advocating atheism, but this is absolutely not the case. They neither advocate nor disparage any particular religion and strongly defend the freedom to practice any religion or no religion.
The Libertarian Pledge – Minimize the Use of Force
As a principle of Ayn Rand’s “Objectivism,” she stated (circa 1955) that the only justification for the use of force is as a response to a prior initiation of force.
Libertarians take the following similar pledge:
“I certify that I do not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”
This means that Libertarians are very peaceful, unless attacked (in which case they are definitely NOT pacifists and will defend themselves).
Laws Are Force
Laws are a use of force (via their enforcement agents). Laws must only do one of two things:
Punish the prior initiation of force (e.g., murder, kidnapping)
Prohibit actions by individuals which obviously would materially infringe upon the equal rights of other individuals (e.g., theft, fraud, breach of contract); this balance must be drawn very carefully.
Individuals have original power (inalienable rights, etc.).
Individuals got together and agreed to form a U.S. government and delegate to it certain very limited powers (defined in the Constitution).
But individuals are still sovereign, NOT the state. As Jefferson put it, people should not fear the government, the government should fear the people.
The only legitimate purpose of government is to protect individual liberties
Provide for common defense against external enemies
Keep individuals from stepping on each others’ toes
Guarantee equal protection/treatment under the law
Do these things at minimum cost (lowest possible taxes)
Oops, Too Much Government !
Our founding fathers warned that governments have a very strong tendency to grow uncontrollably in both size and power.
When government grows, individual liberties inevitably are proportionately reduced:
Tons of laws and regulations with unbelievable complexity
Onerous confiscation of wealth through taxes, eminent domain and inflation
Invasion of privacy / spying (in the name of “protection”)
This has already happened big time. Our government is way overstepping its Constitutional limits. This must be reversed before it is too late. The Constitution must be heeded.
Why Governments Do Not Spend Wisely
It is not that government spending does no good at all. Sometimes it doesn’t, but sometimes it does.
However, a government does not produce any wealth and can only spend what it confiscates from its citizens.
The negative effects of forcibly removing this wealth from the private sector must be considered (but never are). The same amount spent privately almost always produces more benefits than when spent by the government.
Wise (efficient) spending is when you buy something for yourself with your own money. Contrast that with 536 politicians spending your money to buy something for somebody else!
A Big Reason Why Government Must Be Kept Very Small
Individuals and businesses operating under the free market system cannot consume more wealth than they produce or they will lose money and automatically be forced out of existence.
Governments do not have to make a profit and are not subject to the self-correcting controls of the free market system. No matter how wasteful they are, they can (and do) simply confiscate more wealth by raising taxes. They never go out of business!
Libertarian positions are based on solid principle and logic; there is nothing that requires any “great leap of faith.” Everything flows logically from the principle of maximizing and protecting liberty in accordance with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The result is that Libertarians cannot be neatly labeled “left,” “right,” “liberal” or “conservative.” They consistently advocate both economic and social liberty!